Rebecca was the daughter of Norse Doak and Martha Baggett Luker of Helena. She sang in the choir at 1st Baptist Church Alabaster and played in the marching band at Thompson High School. She was runner up to Alabama's Junior Miss in 1979, performing "Much More' from "The Fantasticks" for the talent segment. She began performing in operas and musicals in college and earned a bachelor of arts in music at the University of Montevallo in 1984 after taking a year off from school to perform professionally with the Michigan Opera Company. She also performed with Birmingham's Town and Gown Theatre, where Rebecca Paines encouraged her to pursue Broadway.
After moving to New York, Luker gradually worked her way onto the stage. Her Broadway debut was in The Phantom of the Opera as an understudy to Sarah Brightman in the role of Christine. She replaced Brightman in the role in April 1989 and continued performing through February 1991. Subsequent roles included Lily in The Secret Garden (1991-1993), Magnolia in Show Boat (1994-1997), Maria in The Sound of Music (1998-1999), Marian in The Music Man (2000-2001), and Claudia in Nine (2003). She portrayed Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins from 2006 to 2007.
She also performed in New York City Opera productions of Brigadoon and Malcolm X. Off-Broadway she starred in "Indian Blood" (2006), "Can't Let Go" (2003), and the "Vagina Monologues" (2002). Outside New York she starred in "Time and Again" at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego (1995) and in Barry Manilow's "Harmony" at the La Jolla Playhouse (1997).
Luker was nominated for two Tony Awards for Leading Actress in a Musical - once for Show Boat and once for The Music Man. Her role in Mary Poppins garnered her a 2007 Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a musical. In addition, she was nominated for two Drama Desk Awards for The Secret Garden and The Music Man.
Among many recordings, Luker was well known for her Rebecca Luker Sings Cole Porter, and is featured on Paul Schwartz's trilogy of Aria albums. On television she appeared in episodes of "Law and Order: SVU", "Boardwalk Empire" and "N.C.I.S. New Orleans", and had a major role in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Cupid and Cate.
Luker was married to actor Gregory Jbara from 1993 to 1996. She married actor Danny Burstein in 2000 and had two stepsons, Alex and Zach. In February 2020 Luker announced that she had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). She died from complications in December of that year.
- "Rebecca Luker" (July 10, 2007) Wikipedia - accessed October 18, 2007
- Gates, Anita (March 8, 1998) "Playing It Sweet, If She Needs To, Or Sexy-Funny." The New York Times
- Cobb, Mark Hughes (March 16, 2001) "Stage star is small-town girl at heart" The Tuscaloosa News
- Harvey, Alex (October 16, 2007) "Five 'Phantom' moments" The Birmingham News
- Gore, Leada (February 10, 2020) "Rebecca Luker, Alabama-born Broadway star, diagnosed with ALS." The Birmingham News
- Gates, Anita (December 23, 2020) "Rebecca Luker, a Broadway Star for Three Decades, Dies at 59." The New York Times